Fire board could get earful over sprinkler ordinance |

Fire board could get earful over sprinkler ordinance

Amanda Fehd

A citizens advocacy group plans to attend a fire department board meeting tonight to express their dissatisfaction with a sprinkler ordinance that is costing tens of thousands of dollars for homeowners to comply with.

“Our big concerns are that it’s forcing normal people out of the housing market, increasing the time needed for agency permits, and dramatically increasing the funds needed for construction,” said John Runnels, spokesman for the Citizens Alliance for Responsible Government, which has 156 members.

Gareth Harris, battalion chief and fire marshal for the Lake Valley Fire Protection District, said the agency has begun to enforce a rule that has been on the books for a long time.

Sprinklers, which cost around $20,000, are now required for all homes that don’t have sufficient pressure coming from their water pipes. Major remodel projects are required to retrofit the entire home with sprinklers. New construction that is too far from the nearest fire hydrant must build their own fire hydrant at a cost of around $10,000. And all new homes over 5,000-square feet must install sprinklers.

“A home that is not sprinklered has the ability for the home to become fully engulfed in fire, which is a threat to neighborhood homes and the forest,” Harris said.

But Runnels said the code specifically lays out that it’s at the discretion of the fire chief whether to enforce the code, and that “rural” neighborhoods are exempt.

South Lake Tahoe Fire Department is requiring sprinklers only on new construction.

Water pipes in much of South Shore are out of date, said Dennis Cocking with South Tahoe Public Utility District. The utility is a patchwork of old mom-and-pop water companies that sold out when stricter standards of the Clean Water Act were enacted. The district has been replacing lines since 1996 to the tune of $23 million, with another $18 million slated over the next 10 years.

“We have cobbled together this system that no one in their right minds would have designed,” Cocking said. “A lot of them were built with World War II surplus pipe.”

When lines are updated from two inches to six inches, they will typically provide enough pressure to eliminate the need for sprinklers.

“Most county lines can meet the pressure requirements at six inches,” he said. “The problem tends to be in the city, in the oldest parts of town like Gardner Mountain, Sierra Tract, Al Tahoe.”

If you go

What: Lake Valley Fire District board meeting

Where: 2211 Keetak Street, of Highway 89 in Meyers

When: Tonight, 7 p.m.

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